Surge in infant classes of more than 30 pupils

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A surge in class sizes has seen the number of primary school children being taught in groups of more than 30 rise by almost 380 per cent.

Fears have been raised over the standard of education for district infants after the number of classes bigger than the target size of 30 trebled, from 189 in January 2010 to 714 this January.

Latest figures show the number of infants in classes bigger than 30 increased by 378 per cent, far higher than national increases in class sizes .

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh said: “It’s shocking that in Wakefield the number of five to seven-year-olds in classes of over 30 children has more than trebled since 2010.”

Infant classes of more than 30 pupils were outlawed by the government in 1997.

But after rules on the use of exemptions to allow for larger classes were relaxed, the number of five to seven-year-olds in classes of more than 30 UK-wide has risen by 200 per cent.

Government cuts to local authority budgets have also been blamed for the increase in class sizes.

Coun Olivia Rowley, Wakefield Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, pointed out that the figures represented fewer than six per cent of Key Stage One classes at district schools.

But she said: “It’s no surprise that the number of children in larger classes has risen in this time as an increasing birth rate and more people moving into the area have coincided with the government cuts to the money which we would otherwise have used to increase the number of classes available.”

Coun Rowley said since 2011, the number of district Key Stage One pupils had increased by 10 per cent.

She added: “There are a number of legitimate factors which could mean classes contain more than 30 children.

“For example, if children have special educational needs or there are looked-after children needing a place, the class size could be increased.

“In addition, independent appeals panels can decide to increase class sizes.”

The Department for Education said Wakefield Council would receive almost £7m between 2015 and 2017 to spend on new school places.

A spokesman said: “The average infant class size in Wakefield is 27.3, which is below the national average.

“Children are only permitted to join classes of 30 or more in exceptional cases, reflected in the fact that the average size of an infant class with more than 30 pupils in the city is 31.1.”